Pipe Opener starts season in southern Tamania

Dump Truck at start of Launceston to Hobart - Pipe Opener Night Race 2011
Rob Cruse
Pipe Opener Night Race is being held Friday, 16 September 2011. Ocean racing yachts Dump Truck and Whistler will begin their 2011 Sydney Hobart Yacht Race campaigns this Friday evening when they contest the 43rd edition of the race down the River Derwent and D’Entrecasteaux Channel to Arch Rock or Gordon.

The Pipe Opener, a test of night sailing skills and navigation, with strict safety rules, will start from Castray Esplanade at 7pm, with the first boat likely to finish the 25 nautical mile course about midnight.

This traditional event will set the pattern for another magnificent summer season of yacht racing in southern Tasmania, with the night race being followed by the Cock of the Huon at Shipwrights Point on the Huon River on Saturday afternoon. Hobart entrants will race back from Port Huon to Gordon race on Sunday.

A fleet of near forty yachts has entered for the weekend of racing, including yachts from the major Hobart clubs and also the Huon Yacht Club.

The Friday night race will open the first Sydney Hobart Yacht Race campaign for Tow Truck since Edward Fader and Justin Wells bought Ker 11.7 following the 2009 Sydney Hobart when, then named Tow Truck, it scored its second successive division win in the ocean classic.

Since then Fader and Wells and their crew have completed two winter and a summer pennant series, along with several long ocean races in Tasmanian waters, preparing the boat and her new owners and crew for another tilt by the boat at the Sydney Hobart.

Whistler, a Dovell 38 skippered by David Rees, has been a previous Sydney Hobart contender and has had a string of offshore successes, including winning the Launceston to Hobart and the Three Peaks Race. Three of the crew plus two distance runners earlier this year finished third overall in the British Three Peaks Race, sailing a chartered yacht.

Footloose - Cock of the Huon - Pipe Opener Night Race 2011
Rob Cruse

Other prominent yachts entered for the Pipe Opener and Cock of the Huon Series include Stewart Geeves’ Footloose which won the Cock of the Huon in 2009 and the Launceston to Hobart Race in 2010, Peter Haros’ Wings III, which finished third in division in the L2R last year, and David Taylor’s Pisces, winner of the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania’s recent Winter Series.

Cleopatra from the Huon Yacht Club - Pipe Opener Night Race 2011
Rob Cruse

Huon Yacht Club entries include Dave O’Neill’s Redback, Scott Sharp’s Cleopatra, and It Happens, owned by Ian Parsons and to be helmed by Nick Souter, the co-helmsman with Robert Pennicott in their epic Follow the Yellow Boat Road circumnavigation of Australia in an inflatable dinghy which ended this month.

The Pipe Opener, sponsored by Sargisons Jewellers and Kermandie Hotel, is a unique event as the only series open to all types of keel boats, including trailable yachts and multihulls, where the first and major races starts and finishes at night.

The Cock of the Huon has a different format this year. Instead of a pursuit race, as it has been in the past, Huon Yacht Club will conduct fleet starts for three divisions from historic Shipwrights Point.

Kermandie Hotel, owned by prominent Sydney based yachtsman Sean Langman, will host a presentation buffer dinner on Saturday evening, the highlight of which will be honouring the 2011 Cock of the Huon.

From next month onwards Hobart yachtsman will be a full calendar of exciting round-the-buoys harbour racing, state and national championships, day long distance races, demanding long ocean races, historic regattas and, of course, the hugely popular and more social club twilight racing. It won’t end until late autumn next year.